When the days get warmer, it’s time for cold brew coffee. It’s super easy to make, and you don’t need any fancy equipment: just a French press.
Learn the best tips and tricks for making the perfect cold brew at home every time by steeping it overnight in the refrigerator using a French press.
I do not have time to be fussing around with all sorts of coffee contraptions in the morning. This overnight French press cold brew coffee concentrate method is efficient, hands off, and perfect with any of my favorite quick and easy breakfast recipes.
Full disclosure here: I'm not usually a big coffee drinker. Caffeine makes me jittery more often than not. But when things get stressful or I need an extra kick in the morning (or, let's be honest, mid-afternoon) I have been known to dabble in a bit of coffee drinking.
I say this mainly to let you know that I am a beginner coffee maker and I am not particularly picky about my coffee. What I am particular about is finding the most efficient and practical ways to do things — and what I like most about making cold brew in a French press is how convenient and easy it is!
About This Recipe
I started making cold brew coffee in a French press early in the pandemic when mid-afternoon Starbucks runs were out of the question. I wanted to make coffee at home, but my coffee supply was running low and I was looking for ways to stretch it.
I saw Smitten Kitchen's cold brew iced coffee recipe, which involves mixing ground coffee with water in a mason jar, letting it sit overnight, and then straining it (twice) through a coffee filter in the morning.
At the time, I didn't have any coffee filters. But I did have a French press, which has a built in coffee filter. So I used that instead. It worked beautifully — and there was no need to mess with soggy coffee filters, either. A win-win!
This type of cold brewing method makes a coffee concentrate which is meant to be mixed with water, milk, etc. No, it's not watered down coffee. The coffee concentrate is just so strong that it's at its best when mixed with something else.
Cold brew coffee made in a French press essentially makes twice as much coffee as hot brewed French press coffee, because hot brewed French press coffee doesn't get diluted the same way.
So if whether you're a beginner coffee maker, want to skip the line at Starbucks, or just want to stretch your coffee budget further, making a large batch of cold brew at home is a great place to start.
You can even use this cold brew concentrate as the coffee soak in my mocha hazelnut layer cake!
What is Cold Brew Coffee?
Cold brew coffee is coffee that is brewed at a cold temperature rather than a hot temperature. Cold brew coffee takes longer to brew because the brewing process relies on time rather than temperature to extract the most flavor from the coffee beans.
If you're wondering how to make cold brewed coffee, it's simple: You mix ground coffee and cold water together and let them sit overnight in the fridge. Then you strain the coffee grounds out, which is where the French press comes in super handy (it has a built-in strainer!). That's it!
This recipe for cold brew French press coffee makes a cold brew coffee concentrate which is meant to be mixed with water, milk, cream, or any other flavored liquids at a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.
While cold brew is popular in the summer for making iced coffee, it can actually be used to make hot or cold coffee drinks.
Cold brewed coffee is slightly less acidic than its hot brewed counterpart. This gives it a smoother taste, and allows you to fully appreciate all the complex flavors of your favorite coffee beans.
But I like it mostly because you have more control over the amount of caffeine because it's a concentrate. If you want less caffeine, dilute it more. More caffeine, dilute it less.
How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a French Press
The process for making cold brew coffee in a French press is the same as making hot coffee in a French press — it's just a lot longer.
Set it up at night (it takes five minutes), and you'll have cold brew coffee ready to go in the morning!
To start, you'll want to use coarsely ground coffee beans to make cold brew coffee. Coarsely ground coffee beans are traditionally used for cold brew coffee because they slow down the extraction process.
I grind my own coffee beans using a Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder set to a coarseness of 30, which is what the chart it came with said was best for a French press. (I'm not a coffee snob, I just do what the chart says. It's worked for me so far.)
Cold Brew Coffee Ratio
I recommend a roughly 1:4 ratio of coffee to water for making cold brew whether you're using a French press or any other method. That means approximately 1 cup of ground coffee for every 4 cups of water.
I prefer a slightly less intense cold brew concentrate, so I usually use ¾ cup coffee grounds for every 4 cups of water.
Once you have the ground coffee in the French press, you'll want to add the water in two stages to keep your French press filter clean.
First, fill the French press about halfway full with cool, filtered water. Then give it a good stir. This hydrates the ground coffee so that it doesn't creep up over the edges of the filter when you put the lid on later.
Once the coffee grounds have been fully saturated, fill the French press the rest of the way with water, making sure to leave enough room at the top for the lid to go on with the filter pulled all the way up.
When the French press is full, you can stir very carefully if you need to. I usually don't stir it at all once the water is to the top; I don't want to risk splashing any coffee grounds up above where the filter will go.
Then, carefully place the lid onto the French press with the plunger pulled all the way up.
How Long to Brew Cold Brew Coffee
When you make hot brewed coffee in a French press, you usually wait just a few minutes after stirring before pushing the plunger down. That's not what you do when you make cold brew coffee!
You may need to push the plunger down 1-2 inches to make it fit in your fridge and to ensure all the coffee grounds are submerged. But don't push it further than you need to.
For cold brewed coffee in a French press, you're going to put the whole French press into the fridge "overnight." That means anywhere from 12-24 hours.
According to The Kitchn, a longer brew time will give you a smoother cold brew: "If you soak the grinds for just 12 hours you’ll find a cold brew that is weak and somewhat astringent, but after about 18 hours the brew is super smooth."
I usually filter and strain my French press cold brew after about 12 hours. I think it tastes just fine, but like I said, I'm not very picky about my coffee.
You may want to experiment with different brewing durations to figure out what you like best!
Once you press the French press plunger down, pour your cold brewed coffee concentrate into a large carafe, jar, or bottle.
Your cold brew coffee concentrate is now ready to drink!
This recipe makes about 4 cups of coffee concentrate, which is enough for 8-16 cups of coffee.
Serve it hot or cold, mixed with water, milk, creamer, hot cocoa, or any other flavorings you like. I usually use a 1:2 ratio of coffee to milk, but if you prefer a stronger cold brew, you can use a 1:1 ratio instead.
How to Store Cold Brew
Store your cold brew coffee concentrate in the fridge for 7-10 days (or until it starts to smell or taste funny) in an airtight container.
I recommend a large glass jar or carafe with a lid. A 33 oz glass bottle will be big enough to hold 4 cups of cold brew coffee concentrate.
Do not store your cold brew in the French press with all the coffee grounds — over-extracted coffee is unpleasant and bitter! Remove the coffee grounds if you plan on storing the cold brew in the French press.
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee
"Cold brew" refers just to the brewing method. Cold brew coffee is often used for making iced coffee, but that doesn't mean it has to be served as an iced coffee.
To make a hot cold brew coffee, simply mix the cold brewed coffee concentrate with a hot liquid — water, warm milk, hot cocoa, etc.
Iced coffee, on the other hand, can be made using hot or cold brewed coffee.
Nope! You can also make cold brew by leaving the French press out on the counter overnight. I recommend the fridge because that way your cold brew concentrate is nice and cold in the morning, perfect for iced coffee. But you don't have to put it in the fridge if it won't fit.
Yes! Cold brew coffee is slightly less acidic than hot brewed coffee.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Thomas Jefferson University, "Cold brew coffees across all three roast temperatures were slightly less acidic than their hot brew counterparts." However, the study also found that the roast temperature (light, medium, dark) of the beans themselves may have a larger effect on the acidity of the coffee than the brewing method does. A darker roast coffee bean means a lower acidity coffee.
Yes! Finely ground coffee brewed cold can have a slightly bitter taste, and is more likely to sneak past your French press filter resulting in grainy cold brew. Both of these things can be fixed, however! To keep more finely ground coffee from sneaking through your French press's filter, you may want to drape a coffee filter over the mouth of the French press before you depress the plunger.
For a less bitter cold brew using finely ground coffee, Coffee Craft Code advises shortening the brewing time by "25 to 50% when using finely ground beans" suggesting "anywhere from 6 to 16 hours." You also don't need quite as much ground coffee if using finely ground beans — I'd recommend ½ cup to ¾ cup per 4 cups of water.
I am not a coffee connoisseur by any means, but medium to dark roast beans generally work best. Start with your favorite coffee bean variety, then experiment from there!
Perfect Homemade French Press Cold Brew Coffee
- ¾-1 cups coarsely ground coffee beans (medium or dark roast recommended)
- 4 cups cool, filtered water
- Place coffee grounds in the bottom of a French press.
- Fill the French press halfway with cold water and stir to saturate the coffee grounds. Add the rest of the water, leaving enough room for the lid to sit on top with the mesh filter pulled up.
- Stir the coffee and water again and put the lid on the French press with the plunger pulled all the way up. Place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours (18 hours is recommended for optimal flavor).
- Slowly depress the plunger to filter the coffee.
- Serve cold brew coffee concentrate in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio with milk, water, chocolate milk, hot cocoa, flavored creamer, or any other beverage you want.
- Store any remaining concentrate in airtight jar, bottle, or pitcher in the fridge for 7-10 days.
- If using finely ground coffee, drape a coffee filter over the mouth of the French press before you depress the plunger to keep the smaller grinds from sneaking through. You'll also want to use fewer coffee grounds (½-¾ cup) and shorten the brew time to 6-12 hours to avoid over-extracting.
- Store cold brew concentrate in a bottle pitcher, or empty French press (coffee grounds removed) for up to a week in the fridge.
- P.S. Did you know the cold brew technique originated in Japan back in the 1600s?